Last August, the NCAA announced major changes to the high school recruiting calendar.
One major change was creating two Division I evaluation periods in the month of June. High school coaches met at self-organized meetings and began planning a boys basketball team camp in Georgia to allow college coaches to scout and recruit players from all areas of the state in one camp. About 150 teams and more than 230 college coaches attended the event held at McEachern, Marietta, and Wheeler High Schools.
The St. Pius X Catholic High School basketball team participated in the inaugural NCAA Georgia Team Camp. The Golden Lions are young and inexperienced after graduating 10 seniors, including all five starters from the 2018-19 squad. With only two players who received significant playing time last season, St. Pius began the tournament on Friday with a win over Denmark High School. After trailing most of the second half, St. Pius sophomore Chase Cormier tied the game with a pair of free throws. With under 15 seconds in the game, Tucker Kelly tipped an offensive rebound out to junior guard Brookes Kahlert, who drilled a straightaway three-pointer with 10 seconds to go, putting the Golden Lions ahead for good. Cormier led all scorers with 23 points.
Saturday afternoon, the Golden Lions took on four-star Xavier commit Dwon Odom and the St. Francis Knights. Despite a 19-point effort from Cormier, the Golden Lions took their first loss of the tournament 56-47. Brookes Kahlert stood out to college coaches in attendance, scoring 16 points and dazzling offensively with spectacular spin moves. He also showed strong court vision, setting up his teammates well.
The team camp used high school rules, with special event adoptions. One of those changes was the addition of a 30-second shot clock, which was in use when St. Pius took on St. Francis at McEachern High School. Adding shot clocks to the high school game in Georgia has been a topic of debate recently, as nine other states employ them and many Georgia coaches advocate their use. Golden Lions head coach Aaron Parr said he favors adding them to all GHSA sanctioned games.
“To be honest I didn’t even notice the shot clock in the game,” he said. “We had one violation, and I think St. Francis had one or two. Most teams at the high school level are getting shots off in under 30 seconds. Where I would be a proponent of it is in late game situations.”
Parr said the shot clock helps a team that is trailing, allowing them to bide their time to get back the ball without fouling. It also stops teams ahead in the game from merely holding onto the ball to run out the clock.
“It adds strategy to the game,” Parr said.
Saturday night, St. Pius squared off against Dawson County. Cormier had a quiet first half, scoring only three points. He caught fire in the second half, scoring 11 points in under four minutes, and finishing with 19. Throughout the tournament, the rising sophomore showcased his ability to go on scoring runs singlehandedly and carry the team’s offense at times. Center Jack Verrill was aggressive offensively, posting 9 points and playing his best game of the weekend. Senior top 100 prospect in Georgia, Jasper Gibson scored 28 points for Dawson County, connecting on eight three-pointers.
On Sunday, the Golden Lions capped off the event with a matchup against Buford. Cormier scored 10 of the team’s 16 first-half points, and the Golden Lions trailed by one at the break. Buford went on to win 41-39 and St. Pius finished the tournament with a 1-3 record. Brookes Kahlert played another fantastic game, with 11 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals. Daniel Beverly impressed the St. Pius coaching staff with 10 points and five rebounds, showing his potential as a shooter and tertiary scorer.
Parr said he was pleased with the experience his team gained over the weekend.
“We played great competition — two previous state champions, a final four team, and an elite eight team,” he said. “We competed with each team. In the last game, the guys showed a lot of grit and competed at a high level. They started to understand what it takes to do that. It was a great experience for the team overall.”
Parr said he was pleased with his team’s ability to play multiple defenses well. Moving forward in the offseason, the Golden Lions will be placing a major focus on improving individual strength and skill, becoming better passers and shooters.
After the conclusion of the camp, Parr said the main objective was to help the kids.
“The winner this weekend was the players, and that’s what it’s all about,” he said.
There were not many bigger winners this weekend than Chase Cormier, who continued his meteoric rise in the class of 2022 after a phenomenal rookie campaign that earned him the AAAA Freshman of the year title. After the game against Denmark Friday night, Cormier received his first Division I offer from Kennesaw State University. Texas A&M assistant coach Lyle Wolf, and the entire Kennesaw State coaching staff came to watch him in the Golden Lions’ matchup with Dawson County. On Sunday, University of Georgia second-year head coach, Tom Crean attended the game.
The team camp was declared a major success by many in the state’s basketball landscape.
Crean tweeted, “Thank you NCAA Georgia for creating this INVALUABLE event for all players, coaches, families, and colleges to attend. It is great to be able to see them with their schools. There is some tremendous coaching going on in our state with these programs.”
Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner stated his approval by tweeting, “A big thank you and congratulations to NCAA Georgia for running an outstanding team camp event — absolutely tremendous! Extremely well-organized and executed — an excellent representation of our great state!”
NCAA Georgia will be hosting a top 100 prospect camp on June 28-29, another inaugural recruiting event in the state of Georgia. The invite-only camp brings in the combined top 100 players between the 2020, 2021, and 2022 classes. Cormier will participate as the only representative from the Golden Lions squad.